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Van der Sloot pleads guilty to killing Peru woman

Van der Sloot pleads guilty to killing Peru woman

January 11th, 2012 in News

Joran van der Sloot looks back from his seat after entering the courtroom Wednesday for the continuation of his murder trial at San Pedro prison in Lima, Peru.

LIMA, Peru (AP) - Joran van der Sloot pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the 2010 murder of a young Peruvian woman he met at a Lima casino who was killed five years to the day after the unsolved disappearance in Aruba of an American teen in which he remains the main suspect.

"Yes, I want to plead guilty. I wanted from the first moment to confess sincerely," he told the panel of three judges that will decide his fate, hoping for a reduced sentence. "I truly am sorry for this act. I feel very bad."

Prosecutors are asking for a 30-year prison sentence under charges that carry a 15-year minimum.

The 24-year-old Dutch citizen did not show emotion during his brief confession in fractured Spanish and did not call on the services of a Dutch translator provided for the proceeding.

He bowed his head later when his lawyer, Jose Jimenez, argued that he killed Stephany Flores, 21, as a result of "extreme psychological trauma" he suffered from being "persecuted" over the disappearance of Natalee Holloway on the Caribbean island of Aruba, "something he says he never did and for which no evidence at all exists."

He said judges, in sentencing, should consider the "post-traumatic stress" his client suffered.

Conferring privately with Jimenez before leaving the courtroom, Van der Sloot briefly smiled.

The judges have 48 hours to render a sentence and the presiding magistrate, Victoria Montoya, said it would reconvene Friday to do so.

Van der Sloot's trial opened last week but was adjourned to Wednesday after he asked for more time to decide how to plead. He said then that he was inclined to confess but did not accept the aggravated murder charges the prosecution sought.

Van der Sloot, who wore faded jeans and an untucked light-blue button-down shirt, had confessed to the May 30, 2010, killing long ago.

He told police shortly after the murder that he killed Flores in a fit of rage after she discovered his connection to the disappearance of Holloway on his laptop while they played poker online. His lawyer argues it was manslaughter, for which the minimum sentence is 5 years.

Police forensic experts disputed that claim and the attorney for the victim's family contends Van der Sloot killed Flores, a business student from a prominent family, in order to rob her.

Prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder and theft.

The prosecution maintained Van der Sloot killed Flores with "ferocity" and "cruelty," beating then strangling her with his bare hands in his Lima hotel room, concealing the crime and fleeing to Chile, where he was caught two days after Flores' rotting body was found in his hotel room.

Prosecutors say he took more than $200 in cash plus credit cards from the victim and made his initial getaway in her car, leaving it in a different part of Lima.

The length of the sentence is completely at the judges' discretion, said court officials and a leading Peruvian criminal attorney, Luis Lamas.